A Death, A Loss of Faith, A Baby, A Divorce and A Wedding

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The Pratt boys from today’s wedding – Me, Dad, Masen and Jay

Today my father got married to a very nice woman named Gayle. Gayle’s a very sweet lady that adores my father and he, in turn, loves her dearly. By all accounts and from every way I look at it, they’re going to be very happy together and will serve each other well. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

But as I stood on stage with my dad, my older brother, Jason, and one of my father’s dearest friends, Mark, I was hit with a very sudden and unexpected crushing sadness. I was thrilled for my father and Gayle, but it hit me up there on stage, listening to my dad swear vows to a woman that isn’t my mom, that this was the climax and finale of the death of my brother.

If my brother dying suddenly on May 16th 2012 was the start of a new book in my life, today, with my dad marrying Gayle, was the end of that book. A final punctuation mark on a rather tumultuous 4 years summed up perfectly with, “You may now kiss the bride.”

After Phil died my immediate family, a once shockingly close knit group, was thrown headlong into uncharted territory which resulted in my mom hating my father, me losing religion and having a baby girl, begging my father to divorce my mother and finally with my dad marrying Gayle. (Certain drama left out because well….I don’t want to share it.)

The only constant in all of this is that my brother hasn’t been here for any of it. While I should’ve seen it coming, it was today, over 4 years after Phil’s death and a good 3 and a half years of being totally numb to almost all emotional pain that I was brought to tears and forced to again face the realities that Phil has missed everything and will always miss everything.

Would my parents have divorced if he hadn’t died? Would I still be a happy member of the Christian village? If my parents divorced, would my dad have met and fallen in love with Gayle?

Phil is both the missing component in all of these events as well as the very likely reason any of these things are happening.

So, it was with both great joy and sadness that I hugged my father and Gayle and wished them the best of luck in their new life together.

I just wish Phil was there to give dad a hard time and to take pictures with us again.

This is all probably his fault anyways.

The only picture of all the Pratt boys in existence – Me, Jay, Masen, Phil and Dad

 

Why Immortality is so Boring

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There was a time when I couldn’t imagine my life, or afterlife, without the reality of living forever in some form. In one way or another, in some form or another, Nate Pratt was going to live forever.

What a terrifying thought.

Why does the thought of eternity, something that brings comfort to billions, bring me such fear? In a word: Time.

Time, friends, is what gives life meaning. Time is what allows us an appreciation of relationships and goals. Time is what permits us to evaluate what is most important in our lives by deciding where we put our most precious and limited resource.

Time is the most valuable commodity any of us have and whether you like it or not, where you decide to put your time says a great deal about what’s important to you. You will not be able to buy more time. Nobody is selling sand to refill our figurative hourglasses.

If all people had access to some form of immortality or infinite time, time would become meaningless as well as our goals and relationships. When you have an eternity to do anything or be with people, where does the significance  of that goal or relationship go?

By me choosing to spend time with you freely, I’m carving out space in my limited life to build something valuable between us. I’m telling you, in an indirect way, that you’re valuable.

When I write on my blog or take time to tell a joke, it’s because these things are important to me. I’m attempting to pass along some kernel of thought to make you look at something in a way you hadn’t before or I’m trying to illicit a laugh to make you feel well and myself, selfishly, validated.

The pains of death are the ultimate proof of what I’m saying. For those of us that have felt the utter depths of agony in the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one, we’re only able to feel these pains because we know what it means to love and cherish someone.

We feel that terrible because we know what it means to feel the opposite of that in love. The pain is a testament to how much and how capable we love or fellow man. What an amazing gift.

Death, as much as it hurts, is proof of the value of time. If death were written off, there’d be no more appreciation for life and with that, much of what we cherish and find beautiful would leave as well.

Or to put it as beautifully and succinctly as I once heard in a movie:

“The sweet just isn’t as sweet without the sour.”

How true of life and death.

Time gives us the highs and lows, victories and defeats that immortality couldn’t dare bless us with.

Let me be clear, I’m not looking forward to death or am pretending to enjoy the idea that one day my consciousness will end, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t treasure the many benefits and appreciations limited time grants.

So the next time we hang out, I’d really appreciate a hug or a thanks for granting you some of my precious limited time. I promise I’ll return the favor because let’s face it, immortality would be such a bore.

Memory and the State of Things

bittersweet symphonyI heard Bitter Sweet Symphony on the radio today and it got me all reflective and sentimental. Not only because it’s a pretty damn great song from my youth, but also because it was played during a video slideshow summarizing the life of my brother at his funeral.

I generally avoid going “there” with my brother anymore because I’ve said my bit and have grieved and don’t feel the need to dwell or add more baggage than is currently strapped to me already. I loved my brother and he knew that. I’ve celebrated his life, but I’ve allowed myself to continue living. Continue reading

Movies that Changed My Life – The Fountain

the-fountain-5_188301-1920x1080I love film. While I’ve always been a massive fan of movies, it wasn’t until college that I feel deeply in love with them as a medium.

I’ve got a good running list in my head of not only movies that I love, but movies that impacted me in such a way that I can honestly say they changed my life. The Fountain is one such film.

There is slight spoiler territory below.

The Fountain is both written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. It tells a rather simple story of a man that both loves his wife and is terrified of death. While the story is simple, the journey through it is anything but. You see, the film, depending on the many different ways you can view it, spans 1000 years, 500 years or just a few years. There are 3 different time periods in the film: 1500 AD, 2000 AD and 2500 AD. The biggest constant in all 3 time periods are the two main characters: Tom, played by Hugh Jackman, and Izzi/Isabel, played by Rachel Weisz.

In the year 1500, Tom is a conquistador in a Mayan country and is tasked with delivering Spain from bondage by the queen, Isabel, by finding the Tree of Life. In the year 2000, Tom is a scientist looking for a cure to save his dying wife, Izzi. Finally, in the year 2500, Tom is an astronaut headed to a dying star to resurrect his dead wife, Izzi.

Personally, I view the elements in the year 2000 and 2500 as being literal and actually happening, while the stuff in 1500 is a story that Izzi was writing about her and Tom as an allegory to her ultimate death and Tom’s search to save her.

Not surprisingly, there’s many different ways to view these periods and theories as to how they relate. Darren did an astounding job of drawing parallels and using many similar techniques to make all 3 periods a cohesive whole by moving from darkness to light, certain repeated camera shots and similar dialogue.

Visually the movie is stunning and even jaw dropping at times. As I stated above, the constant deliberate movements of actors and camera work from darkness to light is not only visually striking, but also emphasizes the journey that Tom is undergoing as he moves from fear, regret and anger to acceptance, peace and enlightenment.

The music or score of a movie can truly make or break a film for me. Happily, Darren used his old standby composer, Clint Mansell, to make what is my favorite movie soundtrack of all time. Darren again teamed up with the Kronos Quartet to bring Clint’s music alive and even used the great band Mogwai to further lift the score to another level. Death is the Road to Awe is not just a moving piece of music, but follows the timeline of human life itself. Starting subtle and curious and building to the ultimate climax of life and coming back down for a timely and beautiful ending.

What’s most moving about this movie is Tom himself. Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his career here and I found myself being strongly sympathetic to his character as he fights to save his wife and even seek vengeance on death itself. While some view him as cold for working so hard in the year 2000 and distancing himself from Izzi, I actually found it to be the most loving thing a man could have done in that moment. He was working tirelessly to save her. She had accepted her own death, but it would take Tom another 500 years to come to the same moment of peace.

There are many more reasons I love this film and I could talk about it for pages and pages, but the biggest question remains: why did this movie change my life? Glad you asked! This movie asked profound questions of not only life but also death. While I’ve never struggled with a fear of dying, the road that Tom takes to enlightenment that death is actually what gives life meaning is both heart breaking and liberating. This movie made me see my life as more meaningful and significant than I had previously and it made me hug my wife a little bit tighter.

What more important lesson could something teach us?

 

The New Normal

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Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the worst day of my life. The death of my brother and best friend has had a larger impact on me than any other single event in my life. Even though the list of people more significant to me than Phil is limited to my immediate family of my wife and children, I don’t think any death will so vastly shape and change me again. I may be more devastated, but not so wholly changed.

Mother’s Day marks the last time I saw Phil alive. We went to the park where he was to be married and taught my son how to roll down a hill. We went back to my house and watched the sort of okay horror movie, Insidious. I remember not feeling well and when he, his fiance and my mom and dad got up to go home I didn’t hug him goodbye, something I always did. Instead I went to the medicine cabinet to get Tylenol. We discussed the Rammstein show we’d just seen and how awesome it was. We said goodbye and that we loved each other. I can still see how he stood and looked at me in front of my door just before he turned to leave. It’s all burned into my mind.

A new normal is something I’ve been looking for. The world doesn’t stop turning for the death of anyone. You have to press on. Take your licks and keep moving. Focus on what you can manage and deal with the emotions as they come. Cry. Drink. Talk. Weep. Breathe deeply. Shake your head clear and get back to living.

Mentally I feel like I’ve never been better in my life. The sad days are few and far between anymore even though there’s barely an hour that passes that I don’t think about Phil. It’s a numbness that I’ve welcomed and cherish. Not that I don’t have strong feelings about it, but it’s good to compartmentalize it to some degree. There’s a healthy balance of letting it out and keeping it in. Life goes on. People live. People die. Sometimes it’s the ones we love.

Am I mad? No. Not in the least. In fact, there’s much I’m thankful for. Like the fact that Phil and I were so very close. We purposefully shared a room up until the day I got married. We always hugged and said, “I love you.” We hung out and always laughed a lot. I’m thankful that if Phil had to die it was over as quickly as it was. I’m thankful I got to see him the day of the accident and hold his hand while he still looked like Phil. I’m thankful for the outpouring of love from people I both do and don’t know.

The new normal feels like it’s slowly happening on its own and I welcome it, but also feel guilt for it. To not mourn for someone as much as you feel they deserve does bring about some feelings of guilt. You feel this way even though you know they’d not want one single tear shed. It’s just human nature. We want to honor the ones we love.

The new normal also feels like a mess because, well, it’s new. Phil’s personality was very mellow and he was a great glue for my family dynamic and without him, much has changed drastically and I mourn for that as well.

Sometimes I feel alone in this and sometimes I feel the lift from my brother, Jason, who walks this trail with me. Two where there are supposed to be three.

Most days are great, but days like Mother’s Day and tomorrow are not fun days. They’re a reminder of what was lost and the hole in my heart that I’m trying to not notice all the time.

In an animated movie I saw last year there was a point where the narrator talked about hearts breaking and the truth in the statement can’t be overstated. He said, “When your heart breaks, it can grow back crooked. It grows back twisted and gnarled and hard.” 

Sometimes I feel like the character he was speaking of. Still very much me, but increasingly numbed to many things I used to feel greatly about. It takes an astonishing amount of anything to get an emotional reaction from me anymore. It’s given me extreme tunnel vision. I worry about my kids and my wife. That’s it. That’s my world. So long as nothing happens to them I’m impervious to pain of any kind. I’ve actually grown to love this as it gives my life and tasking a laser focus. No distractions. There was recently another death in the family of someone I really cherished and I barely felt anything. Is my family okay? Good. I’m good.

All this thinking and reflecting about the living that I’ll never have with Phil, I’m always reminded of the great ending to the poem, Maud Muller, that states:

For all the sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Another day. Another year. Another normal. I’m getting there.

 

 

“Noah” – My Review and Thoughts

Let me start by saying that I love the director, Darren Aronofsky. In 2002 a friend that helped forge my love of cinema walked into my dorm room with a movie and said, “We’re watching this right now.” The movie, one of two that truly changed the way I look at film, was “Requiem for a Dream.”

Ever since that day I’ve loved and been in awe of Darren. His movie “The Fountain” stands as my favorite movie of all time.

I was not a big fan of “Black Swan,” but thought “The Wrestler” was spectacular.

So, when I tell you I’m a fan of the director I have a history of his movies and have been following him for over a decade. If you want a good head trip, check out his student film project, “Pi.”

When I found out that he was making a movie about Noah I was more than intrigued and for more than one reason. Darren was raised Orthodox Jew and the story of Noah falls directly in the wheelhouse of the Jews. That’s from their holy book. Not the Old and New Testaments. Just their holy book.

Another reason I was intrigued about his take on Noah is because he has a very gritty style and he’s an atheist.

Never once did I think he would go out of his way to talk down about or slander the name of Noah, but I fully expected a gritty and human retelling of the events from Genesis.

Last night, while in Hawaii of all places, my wife and I went and saw the movie and I loved it and I really think there’s something for everyone, even the most fundamental of believers, in it. I don’t think the vitriol it’s received is fair. You can hate the movie because you thought it sucked or was boring, but to hate it over biblical interpretation is foolish and closed minded in my opinion. Especially considering how well it sticks up for the message of the Bible.

My wife and I both walked away truly stunned at how much the central story was hammered home. God, only referred to in the movie as The Creator, gave humans a shot and we ruined it. We brought this on ourselves. The only true justice is to wipe us off the map and leave the beasts. The only part of creation unchanged from the Garden of Eden.

Noah accepts and supports this conclusion. I can absolutely feel for the poor guy. He’s very, very torn, but sees it as the right thing to do. Is he happy about it? Hell no, but he does find it to be just.

I also love that God was only called The Creator. I really did. Mainly because it showed a more hands off approach to creation in my mind. A less literal form of deism. He created and then stepped away and only steps in when things get really bad. It’s a far less personal God to be sure, but I think it works well if you’re sticking with the free will aspect of apologetics. It’s not the interpretation I was raised with, that God is always around and listening and helping us out, but it actually makes a lot of sense in this movie. I suspect that’s a much more Jewish aspect of belief in the God of Abraham.

A lot of people seem upset that Noah isn’t the guy we all grew up with in the coloring books in this movie. He’s not smiling and flanked by his animals. He’s a gritty and bad ass guy that is torn and human. He’s constantly plagued with uncertainty and doubt. At one point in the movie he seems absolutely overwhelmed with what he has to do, but he continues on!!! How could any believer find fault with this? Have you ever felt overwhelmed with a task you felt called to do? Didn’t Jonah literally run away from going to where God called him? Lot’s wife, I always felt, got a bad name because she looked back against God’s command, but what a human thing to do.

Even to me, an atheist, it took about 15 minutes into the movie to adjust to some of the more fantasy parts of it. Particularly, The Watchers, which are angels that left heaven to help man and God punished them and ruined their heavenly forms by strapping them down with rocks from the Earth. Honestly, they became one of my favorite aspects of the film as they too had human characteristics and sought to return to the glory God had in mind for them…just like Noah. The battle with The Watchers and the humans was one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in years. Both visually, redemptively and just plain out action.

Bottom line is that Noah is a very good movie with aspects for all to enjoy. It really does hammer home the traditional Christian message that God made this and man was the one that royally screwed it up. That it is just for him to wipe it all out. I particularly loved the part where a major choice was left in Noah’s hands.

So, go see the movie, but do so with an open mind for some of the more fantastical elements, but rest assured that even though it’s not the Noah we were raised hearing about and coloring on in our Sunday school work books, it’s a very human tale about an ordinary man tasked with an extraordinary undertaking by his God.

And the underlying Christian message is fully intact.

My Brother Doesn’t Age Anymore

Tomorrow would’ve been my brother’s 26th birthday. We’d be going to my parents house to have cupcakes and ice cream and sing the happy birthday song like a bunch of obnoxious 4 year olds. I’d be able to see the candles in the reflection of his glasses. I’d see that dopey grin of my brother’s that was just so….him. These are events that won’t ever happen again and I’m left with a memory that’s only sure to fail with time. Just thinking about the reality of it brings great weight that I’m eager to rid myself of.

It’s the most simple thing. When someone passes away they’re gone. The finality of it seems to always hit with the same sting. Of course Phil’s gone. I know that. My mind continually pushes against that idea and never fails to bring some form of pain I’d long ago hoped would leave me.

If I’m lucky enough to live to be a very old man my brother will still be 24 years old. Frozen in time as the young man I always knew.

I just wish that my heart could outgrow such terrors as to give me a moments peace.

I love you, Phil.

Happy 26th Birthday.